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The Abbasid Caliphate of Cairo (1261-1517): History and Tradition in the Mamluk Court

The Abbasid Caliphate of Cairo (1261-1517): History and Tradition in the Mamluk Court

By Mustafa Banister

PhD Dissertation, University of Toronto, 2015

On the Way between Old and New Cairo, Citadel Mosque of Mohammed Ali, and Tombs of the Mamelukes – painting by
Louis Comfort Tiffany

Abstract: This dissertation investigates the two-and-a-half century evolution of Islam’s most prominent leadership institution, the Abbasid caliphate, after its restoration in Cairo following the Mongol destruction of Baghdad in 1258. Kept under the supervision of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt and Syria (1250-1517), modern scholars tend to conclude that this so-called Abbasid “shadow” caliphate merely legitimized Mamluk rulers and little else within their society. Despite having shed much of its original power by the Mamluk period, the Abbasid caliphate of Cairo retained a definite measure of religious authority and enjoyed the reverence of significant sectors of the Cairene population including religious scholars, chroniclers, chancery scribes, poets, travelers, and, it seems, enjoyed even wider resonance among the masses of the local Muslim citizenry.

A dynastic study of the Cairo Abbasids combined with analysis of contemporary opinions of the caliphate and its Mamluk sponsors rendered from juristic writing, advice literature, historiography, bureaucratic literature, and administrative documents allows the present study to move toward a comprehensive delineation of the significance of the revived office to the society in which it functioned.

Although the caliphs as individuals were largely disposable and powerless, the office they held retained importance throughout the Mamluk period and contributed to larger civilizational understandings of “Caliphate” that allowed the inclusion of the Mamluk regime and its various administrative subdivisions.

Click here to read this dissertation from the University of Toronto

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